STUTTGART, Germany - Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki put on a dazzling display of clay court tennis in the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon, and after almost three hours on court - two hours and 58 minutes, to be exact - it was the underdog who pulled through.
The first two sets couldn't have been closer. After 11 straight holds to start the match, the No.4-seeded Wozniacki broke serve to sneak out the 64-minute first set, 7-5, and after coming so close to losing the match in straights - she was two points away serving 4-5, 30-all - the No.2-seeded Halep managed to capture the second set, also in 64 minutes, 7-5. Things were dead even going into the decider.
At 1-all in the third it looked like another battle was on the horizon, but then came the first breakway of the match - Wozniacki reeled off four games in a row to soar ahead, 5-1, and after missing three match points and getting broken while serving for the match in that game, she broke Halep one last time in the next game to close out a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 victory after two hours and 58 grinding minutes on court.
"I had my chances to close it out in the second set but I didn't, but then you just have to suck it up and play a third set - there's nothing else you can do about it," Wozniacki said. "I came out strong there and just tried to keep it going. I knew I had loads of energy left for the third set. That's what I was going for, to try to stay longer in the rallies, make her run, and stay aggressive, and that's really what I did."
Wozniacki would be hard-pressed to play a better set than that third set, too - she had nine winners to an amazingly low three unforced errors. Halep was even positive in the third set (12 to 10).
At the end of the day, though, Wozniacki's win over the World No.3 is her best win of the year (her previous-best came a day earlier against the World No.10, Carla Suárez Navarro). She's now through to her first Premier final since 2012 (Moscow) and her first clay court final since 2011 (Brussels).
Despite losing, Halep was smiling in her press conference - and was extremely gracious in defeat.
"I'm smiling because I had a good match. I think I played good tennis," Halep declared. "But she was just better than me. She was running a lot and she was fighting until the end - she was stronger.
"So I'm happy with this match. I'll only take the positive things and look forward from here."
? Porsche Tennis (@PorscheTennis) April 25, 2015